Tag: Coronavirus

Southwest airlines COVID-19 coronavirus family upset BWI Airport

They had $1,600 in airline credits set to expire despite government warnings against holiday travel.

WASHINGTON — It was supposed to be a February getaway for Howard Van and his family to relax after the birth of his second son, Vincent. He bought airplane tickets for himself, his wife Yok, Vincent and his older son Jason, and his sisters-in-laws Amy and Yann Ly.

The family was supposed to fly on Southwest Airlines from BWI Airport to Tampa, Florida. But days before they were supposed to leave, and just as coronavirus was hitting the United States, Howard and his wife got sick with a fever and chills.

Van worried the couple might have contracted coronavirus, but said there was no way to know at the time.

“We had all the classic symptoms,” Van said. “But we will never know we had it or not because we there was no testing available to the general public at that time.”

Van says he was just trying to do the safe and responsible thing by canceling the trip.

“For us as a family and for other passengers on that flight,” he said.

Southwest issued the Van family travel credits for the cost of the plane tickets worth roughly $1,640. The travel credits were set to expire on December 20, 2020. 

But with COVID cases surging around the country, Howard said there was no way to use the travel credits, especially since his wife and sister in law Yann are both front line health care workers and have been asked by their employers not to travel.

So, Van called Southwest and asked for an extension to use the travel credits.

Because of their current policy, they were unable to grant me that request, which was very disappointing for us,” Van said. “And it became almost like a financial ticking time bomb as the deadline was approaching.”

That Southwest policy says only travel credits issued on or after March 1 of this year can be extended. Van asked customer service to make an exception, posting his appeal to Southwest Airline’s CEO, Gary Kelly, on the company website.

Van wrote, “The current Southwest policy is hurting front line medical professionals during a time when they are sacrificing the most to keep everyone safe.”

But according to a screenshot of that conversation provided by Van, Southwest wouldn’t budge. A customer service rep wrote back: “We’re sorry for any disappointment surrounding the fare rules…ya’ll choose to purchase.”

Van said the best Southwest told him they could do was charge him $100 per ticket to extend the travel credit deadline, meaning he could sink another $500 into a trip he didn’t know when his family could safely take. Or lose the $1640 in airfare altogether.

“And for our family, that’s a lot of money,” Van said. “That’s money we could use to buy groceries, invest in our college funds or buy Christmas presents for our kids.”

Howard wrote to WUSA9 and asked for help. So, Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Flack

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Hoboken Cancels Winter Recreation Programs Amid Coronavirus

HOBOKEN, NJ — The city of Hoboken said Sunday that they have decided to “indefinitely postpone” all city-run recreation programs for the winter amid coronavirus.

a sign on the side of a building: Christmas wreaths for sale near Our Lady of Grace Church in Hoboken on Saturday.

© Caren Lissner/Patch
Christmas wreaths for sale near Our Lady of Grace Church in Hoboken on Saturday.

“As we continue through the next stage of the second wave, and with cases surging in New Jersey, we have made the difficult decision to indefinitely postpone all city-run recreation programs for the winter, including all indoor sports and flag-football,” wrote Mayor Ravi Bhalla in an update on Sunday. “We have seen some recent COVID-19 cases coming from recreation leagues, and given the expected increase in cases, we feel it would be irresponsible from a health perspective to continue with indoor sports where social distancing is not practical.”

The mayor also announced new testing options citywide, including for the coming week.

“I encourage any resident who gathered over Thanksgiving or the weekend with multiple families outside the household, traveled or received visitors who traveled from outside the tri-state area, or attended a large gathering of any kind, to get tested this week,” he said. “Since the virus has been proven to spread among those who are asymptomatic and the increased chances of transmission in group and indoor settings, I encourage those residents also avoid contact with others and quarantine whenever possible until after receiving test results.”

The Hoboken Health Department recommends a COVID-19 test at least 5-7 days after the latest potential exposure.

On Sunday, ABC News reported that “Some Hoboken bars [were] packed” on Saturday night. They said that in many, social distancing was in effect and “masks were everywhere,” but added, “some Hoboken bars were looking a little too pre-covid” with people sitting close together and windows “fogged up.”

Testing this week:

  • A new testing partner, ivee, is hosting COVID-19 testing this Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Multi-Service Center, 124 Grand S. Testing is open by appointment to both Hoboken residents and Hoboken business employees. PCR testing is offered, with results anticipated within 48-72 hours. Sign up: https://calendly.com/iveecovid/ivee-x-hoboken-covid-19-testing-clone-1
  • Dr. Islam and the Prompt MD staff are providing testing on Monday, 8 a.m. to 3, Thursday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Friday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 605 Jackson St. PCR testing is offered, with results anticipated within 48-72 hours. http://www.hobokennj.gov/promptmd
  • Dr. Raj Brahmbhatt and the Riverside Medical Group staff are continuing to provide COVID-19 testing six days a week, at the new location uptown, by appointment to Hoboken residents only. Rapid testing is offered, with results provided within 15 minutes. See our story and details here and see general testing information below.
  • State of New Jersey: The State Department of Health, in partnership with the City of Hoboken and Hoboken Housing Authority, is providing testing for residents at 221 Jackson St. (community room) on Friday, between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Testing is open to all residents and business employees. No appointment is needed, and testing is available on
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Is it safe to stay at a hotel during the coronavirus pandemic?

text, website: Coronavirus Tips Hotels

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Coronavirus Tips Hotels

  • Staying at a hotel during the coronavirus pandemic can be safe, but only if you do your homework before making a reservation.
  • It’s important to ask the hotel if they have a capacity limit on guests. It’s also important to ask how often rooms are turned over to new guests.
  • Coronavirus infections are on the rise across the country and experts fear we’ll see a huge increase in deaths and hospitalizations within the next two to three weeks.

Even though the CDC and health experts advised people against traveling this holiday season, the reality is that many people chose to ignore said warnings. And to be fair, some people didn’t even have much of a choice with respect to traveling home for the Thanksgiving holiday. As a prime example, many universities are exclusively resorting to remote learning for the rest of the semester. The end result is that millions of college students had no choice but to pack up their belongings and head home this week.

If travel is an inevitability — and for some, it truly is — adhering to coronavirus safety guidelines is paramount. For some people, this might mean social distancing and eating outside. For others, especially for those visiting people who are in a risky demographic, this might entail quarantining in a hotel for a few days before heading home. This, of course, begs the question: how safe are hotels when it comes to effective coronavirus prevention?

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Unfortunately, there isn’t an all-encompassing answer to this question. In short, the answer varies from hotel to hotel. Whereas many hotel chains have adopted very stringent and enhanced cleaning procedures, other hotels are taking fewer precautions.

The reality is that hotels by their very nature can carry a lot of risk given that they can often see hundreds of guests come and go within a short timeframe. Of course, with people traveling less, hotels today are clearly seeing less foot traffic than ever before. That being the case, you’ll want to review a particular hotel’s mission statement when it comes to coronavirus safety procedures before making your reservation.

As a prime example, Marriott was quick to implement a number of cleaning procedures to lessen the risk of coronavirus transmission:

In public spaces, the company has added to its already rigorous cleaning protocols, requiring that surfaces are treated with hospital-grade disinfectants and that this cleaning is done with increased frequency. In guest rooms, Marriott has added to its detailed cleaning practices, requiring all surfaces to be thoroughly cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectants. The company will also be placing disinfecting wipes in each room for guests’ personal use.

These new enhanced cleaning technologies including electrostatic sprayers to sanitize surfaces throughout the hotel. We are using air purifying systems that are effective against viruses in the air and on surfaces…

To help alleviate the risk of COVID-19 transmission through person-to-person contact, Marriott will be

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Fauci warns of ‘superimposed’ coronavirus surge after Thanksgiving travel

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s leading infectious disease expert, warned that the travel-heavy Thanksgiving holiday could lead to a “superimposed” surge in Covid-19 cases as the nation heads into December.

Appearing on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” Sunday, Fauci said that public health officials “tried to get the word out for people, as difficult as it is, to really not have large gatherings” during the holiday due to concerns that the celebrations could exacerbate the coronavirus spread.

“What we expect, unfortunately, as we go for the next couple of weeks into December, is that we might see a surge superimposed on the surge we are already in,” he said.

“I don’t want to frighten people except to say it’s not too late at all for us to do something about this,” he added, urging Americans to be careful when they travel back home and upon arriving, and to take proven steps like social distancing and wearing masks.

It can sometimes take two weeks for infected people to develop symptoms, and asymptomatic people can spread the virus without knowing they have it. So Fauci said the “dynamics of an outbreak” show a three-to-five-week lag between serious mitigation efforts and the actual curbing of infection rates.

While the first wave of vaccinations could start in America within a matter of weeks, Fauci said that, for now, “we are going to have to make decisions as a nation, state, city and family that we are in a very difficult time, and we’re going to have to do the kinds of restrictions of things we would have liked to have done, particularly in this holiday season, because we’re entering into what’s really a precarious situation.”

Covid-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. have been accelerating in recent weeks — there have been more than 4 million cases and 35,000 deaths attributed to the virus in the month of November alone. Overall, America has had 13.3 million coronavirus cases and 267,000 deaths attributable to the virus, according to NBC News analysis.

Despite a mid-November warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraging Americans not to travel during Thanksgiving, air-travel broke pandemic records, with 6.8 million people traveling through airports in the seven days ahead of the holiday.

The already accelerating caseload, combined with the potential for another surge of cases, comes as hospitals across the country are sounding the alarm about overloading the system’s capacity.

Fauci said that he is concerned about the nation’s hospitals, noting that he received calls last night from colleagues across the country “pleading for advice” amid the “significant stresses on the hospital and health care delivery systems.”

While he explicitly said he was not calling for a national lockdown, Fauci said at the local level, Americans could “blunt” the surge’s effects on the hospital system by taking mitigation steps “short of locking down so we don’t precipitate the necessity of locking down.”

The surge in cases comes amid promising news about a coronavirus vaccine, with both

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Coronavirus vaccines may help travel recover, but it may take years to fully rebound, experts say

  • Forty-nine percent of travelers would be willing to travel after a proven Covid vaccine is released, a recent study found.
  • Many travel industry insiders urge caution but do think a rebound could be in sight should mass vaccination prove effective.
  • While personal practices like mask wearing and social distancing may fade with time, other industry wide changes introduced during the pandemic will likely prove durable.

a woman standing in front of a store

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As news of several effective Covid-19 vaccines offers some light at the end of the tunnel that is 2020, will a beleaguered travel and tourism industry — one of the hardest hit by the pandemic — soon begin to recover?


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Possibly, say sources, but they caution that travel may take years to fully rebound and, no matter the timing, will likely look different than it did pre-pandemic.

“The news of a potential vaccine does hold promise for travel in 2021,” said Julie Hall, spokeswoman for AAA. “But … travelers need to be focused on knowing the risks of traveling and exposure in the here and now.”

Brian O’Connell, analyst at InsuranceQuotes.com, takes an even more measured stance. “I’m just not bullish on travel for the first half of 2021 – even if a vaccine is mass produced in that timeframe,” he said. “Caution is the watchword, as the vaccine will take months to be fully distributed in the U.S. and abroad.”

Kayak.com CEO Steve Hafner said he thinks “people are taking more a wait-and-see approach … until one of these vaccines gets out there.”

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However, the online travel agency did see a spike in searches — if not purchases — right after pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced 95% efficacy for its Covid vaccine on Nov. 10. The next day, searches were up 27% compared to the week prior, he said, but settled into a “more modest” 6% weekly growth rate in the days that followed.

Still, Hafner said the increased searches are good sign.

“I’m very optimistic that once these vaccines get distributed, people’s perceptions around travel are going to change toward the positive,” he added.

“I’m hopeful it comes by the second quarter [of 2021], knock on wood,” Hafner said, of a rebound in travel. “If we’re really lucky, we’ll see it in the first quarter.”

A survey of 4,300 customers earlier this year by travel insurer Allianz found that 49% would travel again given a proven vaccine. Meanwhile, 42% said the go-ahead from public health officials would suffice.



“[The] promise of a highly effective vaccine is good news for the tremendous pent-up demand for travel, and should provide another reason for consumers to feel more confident booking trips for 2021,” said Daniel Durazo, director of marketing and communications at Allianz. He said he expected that luxury and experiential trips will be

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Indoor recreation businesses say they’re crucial for mental, physical well-being | Coronavirus

Operators of places for indoor activity impacted by the governor’s COVID-19 regulations say their operations are essential for the physical and mental well being of the public.

Craig Rhodes, a managing partner for Kingpin Lanes in Springfield, said they were closed during the lockdown this spring, allowed to open for a few months and then closed down again.

“A, we’re in the league bowling season which is the best season for us and going into the holidays where we pick up quite a bit of extra income and foot traffic for the holidays which is not just difficult, but difficult timing as well,” Rhodes said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker last Monday imposed prohibitions on indoor service at bars and restaurants statewide, and capacity limits on retail operations. Indoor recreation, like bowling, is prohibited.

Rhodes said he’ll be keeping a close eye on the numbers, and if there aren’t declines from all the closures, there need to be some explanations.

“If there’s no change and everyone’s closed, obviously there’s something else if afoot,” he said. “We would certainly demand to have some answers based on those numbers.”

Rhodes said while some don’t consider bowling essential, it is to his employees and to his clientele’s physical and mental well being.

For gyms, there can’t be any group exercises and locker rooms are closed under the governor’s rules. In Springfield, FitBodies owner Chris Schmulbach said he’s gone from group classes to open gym. He also said he doesn’t recommend masks.

“I can’t force them to wear masks, so I guess I’ll take the heat and deal with it from there and see what happens,” Schmulbach said.

Corynne Cooper, the general manager of a fitness facility in Chicago, will be following the guidelines to the letter.

“If [Pritzker] says masks, it is masks,” Cooper said. “If it’s not steam rooms and saunas, it’s no steam rooms and saunas. If it’s no locker rooms, it’s not locker rooms. We’re not trying to cut any corners.”

Both said keeping their facilities open is crucial to the physical and mental health of their clients.

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Massachusetts takes Vermont off ‘lower-risk’ coronavirus travel list

Massachusetts is taking Vermont off its “lower-risk” travel list after midnight on Saturday — effectively expanding the Bay State’s travel restrictions to all of New England.

a group of people walking down the street: BOSTON, MA. NOVEMBER 22: A few travelers in the open section of Terminal A Sunday, November 22, 2020, in a sparsely occupied Logan Airport in Boston. (Jim Michaud / MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

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BOSTON, MA. NOVEMBER 22: A few travelers in the open section of Terminal A Sunday, November 22, 2020, in a sparsely occupied Logan Airport in Boston. (Jim Michaud / MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Travelers to and from Vermont — including Bay State residents — will now have to fill out the Massachusetts Travel Form and quarantine for 14 days unless they have a negative COVID-19 test result from within 72 hours of their arrival here. Those who don’t comply could face a fine of $500 per day.

Vermont was the last New England state to be exempt from Massachusetts’ travel restrictions after Maine and New Hampshire were taken off the lower-risk list last week by the state Department of Public Health.

The only state still designated as lower-risk is Hawaii.

Exemptions to the travel restrictions include people crossing state lines for work or school, those seeking or receiving medical treatment, military personnel, those providing “critical infrastructure services” and people merely passing through Massachusetts en route to other places.

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Despite coronavirus issues, Ohio State football practiced Thursday and still plans to travel to Illinois

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Whatever coronavirus issues Ohio State football is dealing with have not shut down preparations for Saturday’s game at Illinois.

The Buckeyes practiced as scheduled on Thursday, though it was unclear if the structure of that workout had to be altered due to the reported increase in COVID-19 cases within the program. One source told cleveland.com the positive tests, or associated isolation due to contact tracing, are affecting players, coaches and support staff.

Ohio State did publish a series of photos from Thursday’s practice on Twitter. Players showcased as attending practice included quarterback Justin Fields and offensive linemen Josh Myers, Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere.

Another photo showed coach Ryan Day holding the Illibuck trophy that will be at stake in Saturday’s game. A video about the team meal featured starting linebacker Baron Browning. Another video featured starting defensive end Jonathon Cooper.

Reports first surfaced Thursday evening about an increase in positive tests within the program. Ohio State has not confirmed anything, other than Thursday’s practice occurring and Friday’s travel plans remaining intact.

Ohio State typically releases a status report on Friday mornings at approximately 10 a.m. That report does not differentiate between injury, illness or disciplinary absences. Due to the daily COVID-19 testing throughout the Big Ten, that report has also been more fluid than usual because new absences could pop up after the report comes out.

In other words, what the team releases Friday, if anything, may be a best-case scenario regarding its roster for Saturday’s game.

Any players who tested positive will be unable to play in any of the final three regular-season games, per the Big Ten’s policy mandating 21 days out of competition. After the Illinois game, Ohio State is scheduled to play at Michigan State on Dec. 5 and at home against Michigan on Dec. 12. The Big Ten championship game follows on Dec. 19.

It is also important to remember that, depending on testing thresholds, Ohio State could reach a point where whether it plays or practices is out of its control.

Per Big Ten protocols, teams experiencing cases among more than 5% of team members and more than 7.5% of the program “population” — a combination of players, coaches, managers, trainers and other staff — must halt operations. Any canceled games cannot be made up. Ohio State already missed one game due to Maryland’s outbreak.

Positive tests in the 2.5-5% range for a team and 3.5-7.5% for the population mean a program must alter its practice and meeting schedule and “consider viability of continuing with scheduled competition.”

New Ohio State face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Ohio State-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection. A 3-pack is available on Fanatics for $29.99.

Ohio State Buckeyes Adult Face Covering

Fanatics has released Ohio State Buckeyes Adult Face Coverings. This 3-pack of adult masks, retails for $29.99.

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TSA records Thanksgiving travel spike in spite of coronavirus risks

The Transportation and Security Administration announced its highest daily screening volume since March on Wednesday.

Lisa Farbstein, a TSA spokeswoman, wrote on Twitter that more than 1 million people traveled through TSA checkpoints on Wednesday, the highest recorded volume since March 16.

“JUST IN: Yesterday, Wednesday, Nov. 25, @TSA screened 1,070,967 people at checkpoints nationwide,” Farbstein wrote. “It’s the highest volume since March 16 and only the 4th time passenger throughput has topped 1 million since that date. Last year 2,602,631 people were screened on Thanksgiving eve.”

Although the number of screened travelers accounts for the highest volume since March, it still pales in comparison to the more than 2,600,000 people who traveled on the same date in 2019.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised against travel during the holiday season.

“Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu,” the CDC said.

Last weekend, the TSA screened more than 3 million travelers. Over the same three-day stretch in 2019, the TSA checked an average of 2,355,435 people.

“More than 1 million COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States over the last 7 days,” the CDC wrote in a statement issued last Thursday, a week before Thanksgiving. “As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with.”

Close to 13 million people have tested positive for the virus in the U.S., and more than 260,000 have died from complications arising from the disease, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.

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Travel Insurance During Coronavirus Pandemic: What To Know

“It was a pretty quick and nimble reaction,” Mr. Sandberg of TravelInsurance.com said.

Normally, travel insurance varies by factors including the age of the traveler, destination, trip length and cost (most range from 4 to 10 percent of the trip cost). But some destinations are providing it at a flat fee, with most policies spelling out coverage limits and terms for emergency medical services, evacuation and costs associated with quarantines.

Jamaica, which will require insurance, but has not said when the new rule will go into effect, plans to charge $40 for each traveler. The Bahamas will include the insurance in the cost of its Travel Health Visa, an application that requires negative Covid-19 test results, which runs $40 to $60 depending on length of stay (free for children 10 and younger). The Turks and Caicos is offering a policy for $9.80 a day, and Costa Rica’s policies, if purchased locally, cost roughly $10 a day.

Expect this list of destinations to grow. In January, the Spanish region of Andalusia plans to require travel medical insurance and is working on finding a provider to make it easy for travelers to buy it.

Policies that cover Covid-19 as a medical event that may cause trip cancellation or disruption, or those that provide coverage for medical treatment and evacuation still don’t necessarily cover travelers who have a change of heart when they learn they will have to quarantine upon arrival, even if they don’t have the virus. Nor are policies necessarily tied to conditions on the ground, like a spike in infections, State Department travel warnings, a government travel ban or the cessation of flights to and from a destination.

For those events, there’s Cancel For Any Reason, or CFAR, an upgrade to plans that generally only returns 50 to 75 percent of your nonrefundable trip costs.

“Prior to the pandemic, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend CFAR because most of travelers’ concerns were covered by standard plans,” Ms. Barto of Squaremouth.com said. “It’s about 40 percent more expensive and we didn’t want travelers to pay for additional coverage.” Now, she added, there’s been a surge in interest in the upgrade, including in 22 percent of policies sold at the site since mid-March.

Industry experts predict some of these outstanding issues may work their way into policies of the future as they adapt to enduring realities, much as they did after 9/11 in covering travelers in case of terrorist events, which was not the norm before.

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